2023 Design Competition

Zoom screenshot of the 2023 National High School Design Competition Finalists and Judges from Judging Weekend on June 11, 2023.

The 2023 Design Challenge


Designers are creative storytellers who can share powerful information in innovative and compelling ways. They can translate complex facts and figures into beautiful imagery and captivating stories—all by visualizing data.

Data visualizations are graphic representations of information. They help people understand and retain information to support them in seeing greater trends and patterns, making informed decisions, and communicating new ideas. These visuals can come in many forms, including graphs, charts, maps, or even something more abstract. Data visualizations may tell stories about health, racial injustice, climate change, peace, gender equity, and much more. Using data as a guide, designers, data scientists, and you are crucial to designing a more equitable future.

The 2023 National High School Design Competition challenged high school students around the country to use design and data to support their community.

The Selection Process

In Stage One, participants identified an opportunity to use data and design to support their community and designed a solution. Participants created a sketch of their idea and described how the design addressed the challenge. Cooper Hewitt selected three finalists to proceed to Stage Two of the Design Competition through an anonymous judging based on the criteria of innovation, impact, relevance, and communication.

During Stage Two, the three finalists furthered their designs using the Stage Two Brief document and participated in a mentor call during April 2023 for initial feedback. Finalists then traveled to Cambridge, MA to attend Mentor Weekend at the MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism on May 6–7, 2023. They took a deeper dive into the design process, learned more about addressing challenges through design, explored the design field, and worked on their final presentations. Then the finalists participated in the virtual Judging Weekend on June 10–11, 2023 and presented to the esteemed judges.

Design Competition Resources

Interested in using the 2023 challenge in your classroom? Explore these resources:

Use these resources to learn more about data visualization:

Take a look at how designers use data to tell stories about health, racial injustice, climate change, peace, gender equity, and much more:

How might design and data raise awareness?

  • Black Lives Matter Street Mural Census by Kim Albrecht and Stephen Larrick: This visualization shows the locations and dates of Black Lives Matter street murals. It raises awareness of the fight against racial injustice and highlights differences in regional support for the movement.
  • Bruises—The Data We Don’t See by Giorgia Lupi and Accurat with music composed by Kaki King: This project shows clinical data about King’s daughter’s autoimmune disorder and the emotions she felt after the diagnosis. It highlights some parts of life for those who are disabled (either visibly or non-visibly) that aren’t generally shown.
  • Years With a Female Head of State by Mona Chalabi: This hand-drawn bar graph illustrates how many years a woman has held a position of power in different countries around the world.
  • Data Vandals by Jen Ray and Jason Forrest: This project presents non-traditional data visualizations for people in New York City, including through performance.
  • The Game of Life by Alexandra Davis: This project shares the data behind systemic racism in the form of a game. It creates a more engaging experience for the reader/player to understand and learn about the many injustices people of color face every day.

How might design and data reveal hidden patterns and trends?

  • CityDigits: Local Lotto by Laurie Rubel and Sarah Williams: This visualization shows how lottery affects neighborhoods differently.
  • 2022 Positive Peace Index by The Institute for Economics and Peace: This simple map measures the level of peacefulness in 163 countries using 25,000 datasets gathered over multiple years.
  • City and rural population. 1890. by W. E. B. Du Bois and students of Atlanta University: This graph shows the number of Black Americans living in small and large cities compared to rural environments.
  • Map, WorldMapper Project: Global Internet Use 1999 and 2007 by the Social and Spatial Inequalities Research Group: This project measures internet use around the world by changing the size and shape of countries based on data.
  • Climate Crisis Font by Helsingin Sanomat: This font visualizes the urgency of the climate crisis. The font weight begins to disappear based on a sliding timescale using real Arctic Sea ice data.
  • UCSF Health Atlas by Stamen: These interactive maps show how the environment influences health in California.

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The 2023 Judges

A diverse panel of creative experts met with the finalists to review and discuss their designs, and selected the winner on June 11, 2023.

The 2023 Judges were:

  • Irene, Au, Design Partner, Khosla Ventures
  • Kristine Johnson, Co-Founder, Executive Director of Design, Cognition Studio, Inc.
  • Yeshimabeit Milner, Founder & Executive Director, Data for Black Lives
  • Maria Nicanor, Director, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • Eric Rodenbeck, Founding Partner, Stamen Design

The 2023 Mentors

The finalists attended an in-person Mentor Weekend at the MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism in Cambridge, MA on May 6–7, 2023 with mentors:

  • Sarah Williams (Lead Mentor), Director, MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism; Director, Civic Data Design Lab
  • Helen Kongsgaard, External Relations Manager, MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism
  • Alberto Meouchi, Research Associate, MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism

Special Guests

  • Tova Kleiner, 2017 National High School Design Competition Winner; Student, MIT
  • Carlos Sandoval Olascoaga, Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer, MIT
  • Elizabeth Yarina, Doctoral Student, MIT

The 2023 Competition Winner

Photo portrait of a young woman smiling, standing in front of the Cooper Hewitt National High School Design Competition sign, with light pink long hair wearing a blue long-sleeved dress with flowers.Congratulations to Eleanor Lewis for being named the winner of the 2023 National High School Design Competition! Eleanor is a graduating senior from Design and Architecture Senior High in Miami, FL.

Her project, Plant Resilient Miami, is a web-based tool that provides information on hyper-localized environmental conditions like heat and saltwater intrusion risk, and how they are projected to shift in coming decades. It uses this information to suggest native plant species that will be resilient to climate change, creating a greener Miami. Watch the presentations and explore the projects of all the finalists and honorable mention recipients.

The 2023 Finalists

Congratulations to the finalists, who were announced online on April 6, 2023:

  • Yoona (Sarah) Lee, grade 11, St. Paul’s School, Concord, NH, and
    Yoojung (Claris) Shin, grade 10, Phillips Academy Andover, Andover, MA
  • Eleanor Lewis, grade 12
    Design and Architecture Senior High, Miami, FL, Teacher: Eric Hankin
  • Rori Stanford, grade 12
    Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, NJ, Teacher: Scott Lang

The 2023 Honorable Mentions

Cooper Hewitt announced 12 Honorable Mentions on April 6, 2023. Congratulations!

  • Aviya Afra, grade 11
    Grauer School, Encinitas, CA
  • Sarah Basil, grade 12
    Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, NJ
    Teacher: Scott Lang
  • Vera Giraudo, grade 10
    Avenues The World School, New York, NY
    Teacher: Gretel Schwartzott
  • Grace Guo, grade 11, and Jane Martens, grade 11
    Carmel High School, Carmel, IN
  • Amelia Kiefer, grade 12
    Design and Architecture Senior High, Miami, FL
    Teacher: Eric Hankin
  • Tiffany Kurniawan, grade 9
    Granada Hills Charter High School, Granada Hills, CA
    Teacher: Jackie Ying
  • Jaime Lai, grade 11
    Dwight-Englewood School, Englewood, NJ
  • Miller Roberts, grade 10
    Westlake High School, Austin, TX
  • Eiliyah Sarowar, grade 11
    Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, NJ
  • Robin Suh, grade 9
    Tenafly High School, Tenafly, NJ
  • Emma Wong, grade 10, and Alice Zhou, grade 10
    Miramonte High School, Orinda, CA
  • Katie Yang, grade 12
    Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, Lexington, KY

2023 Special Thanks

The National High School Design Competition is made possible with generous support from Adobe, eBay Inc., Yaroslav Faybishenko and Jennie Rubinshteyn, and Cooper Hewitt’s Board of Trustees.